Health and safety responsibilities – 12 essential facts every director needs to grasp

An article taken from IOSH and RoSPA.

Calling all directors – the onus is on YOU to manage health and safety. Here IOSH President Elect, and RoSPA OSH Policy Advisor, Dr Karen McDonnell tells you what you need to know when it comes to taking control of health safety in the workplace…

  1. The board has not just a legal but a moral duty to ensure that the organisation manages effectively for good health and safety outcomes. The universal Plan, Do, Check, Act approach (HSG65) demonstrates how to integrate health and safety into standard management practice.
  2. The overall goal must be to ensure that safe and healthy systems of work are in place so that, so far is reasonably practicable, employees and others affected by the organisation’s activities do not suffer avoidable harms.
  3. This is not just about ensuring that the right controls and precautions are in place at the workface but that the right policies, effective processes, competent people – and above all, the right culture – are in place to enable the organisation to work safely at all times.
  4. All managers must manage for safety and health, fully involving all staff and volunteers. Remember, you can only do H&S with people, not to them!
  5. Obeying the law is important but should be regarded as a basic minimum. H&S needs to be seen as a key business performance issue, not a bolt on extra or a regulatory compliance burden. As with any other key business outcome, the board needs to establish meaningful measures of performance for 1) systems, 2) culture, 3) safe working and 3) the extent of H&S failures.
  6. If it is to be safe, avoid accidents and incidents and the legal and financial consequences that can flow from these, the organisation needs to be risk led not law led. Risk profile your business What are the hazards? Who can they harm? How are you going to manage the risk? This must become embedded within your organisation, not a bureaucratic nightmare!
  7. Your staff are your biggest asset, encourage the transfer of positive safety behaviour to road, home and leisure activities. Your staff are more likely to be absent from work as a consequence of an accident that happens outside the workplace.
  8. The board and the management team must ensure that there is suitable risk literacy in the organisation – avoiding ignorance among staff of significant risks as well stopping them going over-the-top when confronted with trivial ones.
  9. The organisation must develop an open reporting and investigation culture. You can only find out how to make things go right if you are prepared, honestly and professionally, to establish why they go wrong.
  10. All board and SMT members and all senior managers must lead on H&S, not just giving clear indications of what the corporate priorities are but by being prepared to lead personally by example in the attention they give to working safely. They should regularly assess their own performance against the advice in INDG 417.
  11. The board must reinforce the message that good H&S pays! Good H&S is good business – the hallmark of a professionally managed organisation.
  12. Finally, the board must recognise and celebrate outstanding H&S performance through safety award schemes – which, as we’ve discussed in the past, are a great way to boost both standards and morale!

If you require further advice, please contact us.




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